In an industry that has had more than its fair share of success, it can sometimes be easy for the achievements of one organisation to blend into the next, but with Leicester based fabricator, Unique Window Systems, its accomplishments in recent years have been such that it really has earned its place as a stand out company in our industry.
Last year for instance, it was recognised as one of the London Stock Exchange Group’s 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain, a report that celebrates the UK’s most dynamic SMEs.
To be recognised in this prestigious list, companies must not just demonstrate consistent revenue growth over a minimum of three years, but must do so to such an extent that they significantly outperform their industry peers.
In addition, Unique was identified by realbusiness.co.uk as the UK’s fastest growing private SME in fenestration in 2016 – and 21st out of 100 private SMEs in the whole country. Unique enjoyed a turnover of over £14m in that period with profits of £1.7m and as of April 2017, those figures had risen to a turnover of £19.5m and profits of £2.2m. According to joint managing director, Sunl Patel, this year Unique is aiming for £25-£30m in turnover, along with comparable profits…
So what is the key to its success?
Well, apart from the fact that it offers an extensive portfolio of products in both PVC-U and aluminium – including its own, unique, Unifold bi-folding doors and Tufacade curtain walling, one of the main reasons for its growth is its commitment to significant investment in its facilities and machinery.
After outgrowing its 45,000ft² factory, Unique reached the conclusion that the only way to meet future demand would be to split the production of its PVCu and aluminium products, and made the decision to purchase an additional 43,000ft² factory alongside the existing building in 2016. The original building would be dedicated to PVCu, while the new would service the manufacture of aluminium products. In addition to the purchase of the new factory, Unique made a significant investment in new equipment, including nearly £1m on a full suite of Emmegi machines. This included a brand new Quadra L2 sawing and machining centre with additional saw blade and end milling capability, a Satellite XT5 axis CNC machining centre, two Classic Star electronic computerised saws and a range of Itaca Solution NC controlled crimpers, automatic bead saws and handling equipment. It’s an impressive set up – Unique is said to be the only fabricator in the country to boast both a Quadra L2 and Satellite XT – and one that is designed to offer the levels of precision, accuracy and efficiency that are required to rise above the competition.
As well as supplying the machinery, Emmegi also completed the installation and training required in order for Unique to set about becoming one of the leading aluminium fabricators in the country. As a result, it now offers a complete range of ally windows, doors and curtain walling products in all leading systems including AluK, Seniors, Schuco, Kawneer, Technal and WarmCore, not to mention supporting technology that will allow it to offer same day quotations, fast lead times – bi-folds can be fully fabricated in five working days – and competitive pricing.
In a second stage of significant investment in 2017, Unique spent around £2.5m on updating its dedicated PVC-U factory in a move that was designed to grow capacity and improve production quality.
The equipment included a second BDM cutting and machining centre with additional saw blade and end milling capabilities; two six-head welders and an SV 800 corner cleaner to enhance the company’s existing Urban sash line; a Link 9045 two head welder and miller; and an SV530S-C CNC corner cleaner.
Sunil commented: “The recent investment in machinery for the PVC-U side of our operation has doubled our capacity, and while we average around 1,500 frames a week, there is the potential to increase this output to 2,500 or even 3,000 frames a week.”
For such a huge investment, you could be forgiven for thinking that Sunil and his team spent an equally considerable amount of time deciding on exactly what make and models of machines would best suit their needs, although as it turns out, a combination of previous experience and a great working relationship with machinery supplier Promac, allowed the decision to be made with the minimum of fuss.
“I’ve known Joe from Promac for 20 years and we’ve always had a great relationship so I always trust him to look after us,” explained Sunil. “In fact, when we had the initial meeting with him about what we wanted to invest in, it only lasted for an hour and Joe left with a deposit for over £2m!”
“It’s not just the fact that we’ve worked with Promac for so long, it’s also that we know the machines they supply us will be up to the job,” he continued. “For instance, we had our first BDM machine installed two years ago and it offers fully automatic cutting and machining of the profile for our windows and doors, allowing us to improve the efficiency and reliability of our products in the process. It really has been the best thing since sliced bread, so I had absolutely no hesitation in ordering a second one.”
“It’s not just the BDM though, all the machinery that we installed last year has been chosen because we believe it is the most durable and robust on the market,” added Sunil. “Over the last few years it has been the investment in our manufacturing that have allowed us to grow and for us to be recognised not just by the likes of the London Stock Exchange Group for our profits, but by our customers for our quality and efficiency as well.”
As we head into 2018 amid a degree of uncertainty for some sectors in the industry, there are no such worries at Unique Window Systems, which is now looking to fully capitalise on the investments in machinery and facilities over the last couple of years.
“We cater primarily for commercial and new build and we are quite confident in the market,” concludes Sunil. “We are one of the top five accounts for Eurocell – certainly the biggest account for the Modus system – and we hold over £2.5m in profile at any given time. Not only are we in a good position to capitalise on the investments we have made to date, – we are expecting to see £2m months in 2018 – but we are also looking to add even more machinery as well as install a new paint line for our commercial work.”
Whether Unique will return to the pages of the next 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain report remains to be seen, although it only takes a tour of its state-of-the-art PVCu and aluminium factories to realise that it is superbly well-equipped to continue its success for 2018 and beyond.